Summer: 7 Ways to Keep Bugs From Bugging Your Kids
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With children taking advantage of milder weather to be outdoors more, there is a greater potential risk of exposure to bugs. In addition to annoying bites and stings, some insects pose more serious threats. For example, mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus and ticks can carry Lyme disease. Here are some suggestions to help you protect your kids to ensure they have a healthy summer.
Cover up: When practical, you can cover up kids as much as possible with long pants and long sleeves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among other suggestions, advises against wearing bright colors, which attract some insects. The United States Department of Agriculture also offers suggestions, such as wearing clothes light in color.
Try a repellent: When temperatures soar, and covering up becomes impractical, you may wish to resort to a bug repellent. In addition to the FDA’s suggestions on repellent use, including treating clothes or buying clothes pre-treated with repellents, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an online tool to assist people in mosquito and tick repellent applications. EPA also has proposed a graphic, intended to appear on the labels of insect repellent products. The graphic indicates which insect(s) the product will repel (mosquitoes and/or ticks) and the estimated number of hours the product will work effectively—the SPF of bug repellents, if you will. Companies are being invited to participate by including the graphic on their products.
Get rid of insect-breeding areas: Go on a search with your kids around your yard, porch, or balcony, and look for any standing water. Insects, such as mosquitoes, breed in such environments. Ask kids to identify items, like empty flowerpots or cans, or unused wading pools, which contain water where mosquitoes could reproduce. Ask your kids if they can think of any use for this water, like watering the lawn or flowers.
Play Mosquito Tag: One way to put the Let’s Move! initiative into summer activities is to play games, such as tag, incorporating the theme of mosquitoes into the fun. While there are variations of the game, essentially there is a “mosquito group” of players, who can have foam pool noodles as “stingers,” and who try to tag the other group of players with the noodles. Tagged players then freeze until they are rescued by untagged players, who yell the name of a bug to become untagged.
Learn how to identify and remove a tick: Ticks can attach themselves to parents, kids, and even the family pet, so after being outdoors, check yourself, your children, and pets when you get inside, even if your outdoor adventures were only in the backyard. The Centers for Disease Control provides instructions for tick removal. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible, instead of waiting for it to detach.
Find out more about local bugs: The relative prevalence of bugs in warm weather may spark kids’ curiosity to learn more. See if you have any local nature centers with relevant programs. Found in national, state, and local community parks, nature centers provide a slice of the natural environment in different locales. Try going on a hunt in your backyard or local park and see how many different kinds of bugs you can find or try searching for unusual looking bugs, such as the praying mantis, which is a predator of other insects itself.
Read about insects: Reading books about bugs with your kids may also help to promote awareness of the presence of bugs and prompt kids to take precautionary steps if warranted. Some books that may interest them include:
Peterson First Guides: Insects
By: Christopher Leahy
The Icky Bug Alphabet Book
Activities, such as these, and more are just a few of the ideas you can try to help promote your kids’ bug safety awareness so they can have a bug-free summer.
This feature is based on a blog post that originally appeared on free.ed.gov, a site that is now retired. Please visit ed.gov/FREE for more information.
Last Modified: 12/01/2015